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June 23 in Twilight Zone History,: Remembering writer Richard Matheson ('Nightmare at 20,000 Feet')

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Jun 23, 2018

Today, June 23, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember writer Richard Matheson, who passed away on this day in 2013 at the age of 87.

An enormously creative novelist, short story writer, and television scribe, Matheson wrote or originated the story for 16 magnificent episodes of the Zone, including "Nick of Time," "The Invaders," "Third From the Sun," "The Last Flight," "Death Ship," "Steel," and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (probably the most famous of all the episodes).

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No episode of The Twilight Zone is more memorable than Richard Matheson's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

Along with Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and Earl Hamner Jr., Matheson was a vital part of Rod Serling's writing team – perhaps the best anthology team ever assembled. Matheson established a beachhead in Hollywood when he adapted his own novel for The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957. Another one of his novels, Bid Time Return, became the basis for the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour time-travel classic Somewhere in Time, and his I Am Legend novel has been produced a number of times, most recently as a vehicle for Will Smith.

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Matheson worked with William Shatner (here with Patricia Breslin) a second time in the equally tense "Nick of Time." 

One of my favorite Matheson scripts is the one he wrote for the television movie The Night Stalker, a very cool '70s look at a vampire terrorizing Las Vegas with a very memorable hero, reporter Carl Kolchak, and an outstanding cast that included TZ veterans Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Stanley Adams, and Barry Atwater as vampire Janos Skorzeny.

So let us raise a very tall glass to a writing genius -- a prince of the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genre -- who joined Serling on the great weekly adventure we revere as The Twilight Zone.